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How Home Sales By Owner Works

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FSBO sellers who do their homework, invest enough time and make their homes as attractive as possible to buyers can reap big rewards.
FSBO sellers who do their homework, invest enough time and make their homes as attractive as possible to buyers can reap big rewards.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Selling your home involves a lot of homework. Make sure your home is priced right for the market. Research the recent sales and home prices in your area. Overpricing a property can make it languish unsold for months or even years, undermining any leverage you as a seller may have later in negotiating. It's easy to become subjective about the value of your home, especially if you've lived there awhile and made upgrades to it. You have to put aside your pride, avoid setting an unrealistic price and be willing to lower it if necessary.

It can be a worthwhile investment to spend a few hundred dollars to have your home professionally appraised. Visit open houses in the area to get a general idea of going prices. Ask the listing agent how long the house has been on the market and if there have been any price reductions. Make full use of the Internet as a research tool.


Make sure everything in your home is in working order. If you somehow miss a problem before the contract is signed, it's a pretty safe bet that the professional inspector will catch it and you'll be forced to fix it anyway before the closing.

Don't ignore cosmetics. Make your home attractive to buyers. It should be clean and clutter-free, with fresh paint and clean carpets -- the perfect opportunity for that fix-up project you've been putting off! Help buyers envision themselves living there.

Know the rules. Research state laws and regulations governing fair housing, lead paint disclosure and other requirements, so that you're in full compliance. Also bone up on the rules governing offer-and-acceptance (your sale negotiations with a buyer) and sales contracts. The last thing you want is to risk a future lawsuit for not disclosing some defect on your property. Go to a library or bookstore to get familiar with these procedures.

Know about financing. Ask the buyer if they have been pre-approved for a home loan. This is especially important in the current credit crunch. You should get an earnest money deposit to ensure they are serious about purchasing your house. Financing can fall through at the last minute, so be prepared for that possibility.

If you're selling a condominium, townhome or co-op, it is the buyer's right to be informed about the association and its financial health. This includes information about the bylaws and reserves (how much money the association has in the bank to fund needed repairs and improvements to the property). It's your duty as the seller to disclose these facts.

Hire a lawyer to draw up a sales contract and represent you at closing. If you were happy with the attorney who assisted you as a buyer, consider him or her. Otherwise, get recommendations from family or friends. Be aware of the tax implications. Your attorney should be able to advise you on whether or not you will owe capital-gains taxes on the sale.

It's not right for every situation, but if you're willing to work for your money, FSBO can help you save a lot. The links below can tell you more.

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More Great Links


  • Galaty, F., Allaway, W. and Kyle, R. Modern Real Estate Practice in Illinois, 4th edition. Dearborn Financial Publishing: 2001.
  • Levitt, S. and Dubner, S. Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything. William Morrow: 2006.
  • Owner Illlinois, Inc.
  • Silverman, Jacob. "How Selling a House Works."
  • Moloney, Walter. "Survey Shows Buyers and Sellers Use Technology and Want Personal Servive." National Association of Realtors. November 2006.
  • "Selling Without A Broker." Smart Money. April 3, 2007.